Saturday, March 17, 2007

the beginnings of new blog entrys, I hope

But first I feel like I need to get outside and do something once in a while. It can't hurt, you know. Of the writing of blogs there is no end. I at least feel like just playing guitar or something. Besides, I posted a bunch of old poetry earlier in the week. Still, I gotta write something about a few CDs here soon.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Hmm, a curious trip down memory lane, this poem

For my Teddy Bear revised 8-26-98

You're older than some of my friends,
old enough to drink wine if you could,
but of course you can't.
I still have you next to my bed
after 21 years.
Your leather paws the same as they always were,
counterpoint to the now rough coat.
Strange how your skin went from silk to gauze to burlap.
I see your sunken chest as you sit by my bed.
Maybe the years of neglect broke your spirit
but you're still there, if missing an eye.
I can't remember all my crimes against you.
I know promised not grow up.
My body broke that promise
It was too late by the time I realized
the rest of me had.
I can't even say I'm sorry.
Only that I'm sorry crime led to crime.
You can always stay by my bed.
Let it be enough that I remember the day
Mom sewed you for me, when we were both young.

I know when I was a kid I didn't particularly thrill to the idea of growing up but this feels a bit overdone. I suppose I can respect the sincerity of the sentiment but now that I'm nearly 33 instead of 24 this poem seems like a weird reminder of things about myself I don't like. On the other hand, I really do still have the teddy bear next to my bed. It's one of the stuffed animals my Mom made for me herself and I've never had the desire to throw it away. This probably only goes back as far as my being about four years old when I think my Mom had to fix the bear for me. I'll try to make a point to not post too many poems that actually include biographical information in the future.

Another undated poem that's probably from about 1998

Some questions about prophets

Am I a fool for wanting to see
The coal that burned Isaiah’s lips?
The seraph that plucked it from the fire
As the prophet stood in the Temple?
Is it wrong to wish I could scorch
My fingertips on the ember
Or blacken a nail on it?
What was it like to see such a thing?

And where are the wheels within wheels,
With the eye-covered spokes, that Ezekiel saw?

How could ravens feed me in the desert?
What could they bring?
And what privilege is it,
What ineffable status,
That makes the difference between
Being fed by ravens
And searching for locusts and wild honey?

And if protection is being saved
By the enemy of your people,
Who have thrown you in a cistern to die,
What keeps you crying in the wastes
They call the Promised Land?

I think this one was supposed to have more images or ideas in it but I just abandoned it. I didn't feel like adding more to the poem by way of references to Ezekiel 1 or 2. A no-prise to the person who figures out who the last two prophets are.

Another undated poem but from around 1998 or 1999

Hand me your big black umbrella

Hand me your big black umbrella
I’m walking out and it’s raining.
I won’t be long, a few minutes,
And it will be back in your hands,
Wetter, of course, and colder, too.
I was just thinking the only part of you
An umbrella keeps dry is your head.
That’s good enough,
Enough to keep the tumbling clearness
From blinding me as I walk.

I don't really know why I still like this one but as soon as I wrote it I liked it. I'm fascinated by how water, as clear as it is, can blind us in so many ways. This is another poem about the nature of perception and how the barriers we observe between us and what is can help us see things more rather than less clearly. It's sort of a poem about writing and perception for me, I guess, and it's another hat tip to Frost.

undated but probably from around 1998

The Lizard

God, I’m a lizard you caught by the tail
And I shed my tail as all lizards do.
Then you caught me by the ribs and I had
No escape.

But instead of killing me you made me your pet,
Fastened a gold chain around my neck.
Now I sit on an ivory stool by your throne
Wondering why I miss my old tail at all.

A more accurate rendering of the proverb that inspired this would probably be the spider but it's less poetic that way for the conceit of the poem. :)

A really old poem I still like

There is rarely a silent night 6-30-96

There is rarely a silent night.
If there aren't cars on the street then
the lights overhead will sing to
the road their tedious song,
their orange eyes riveted open.
Crickets will chirp, hidden in grass;
frogs croak in suburban ditches;
and fans and clocks will count hours
by the turn of their blades and hands.
In the woods, where all other sounds
seem missing, someone camping will
hear blood in his veins,
hear the wind in her lungs, or the
buzz of her nerves
that keeps her awake until day

Even though I wrote this eleven years ago I still feel pretty happy with it. The monotony of the language reinforces the theme of insomnia and the allusion to the legendary Christmas song is also a lot of fun. In hindsight this was one of a number of poems inspired by an as yet undiagnosed sleeping disorder.

This one pretty much explains itself, too

Sonnet for Eucharist

However it is that the blood resides
In the cup, it is memory that guides
Us through the holy supper and memory
that brings to mind what has gone before.
Whether barley, corn, wheat, or rice the bread
Will never tell us if his skin was red,
If his laughter was like an untuned horn.
The bread will only tell us he was born,
That he lived and died. This we remember
As we drink wine that tastes like vinegar:
Cast-out demons and leprous hands made clean.
A vision of God heretofore unseen
Has walked the earth, more than a mere vision,
Whose flesh and blood buys our salvation.

a really short one

no one is more dead
than the stain that was a spider
forgotten, on a winow sill

A poem for office space

Restructured Olympus 5.23.01
The mouse does not take instruction
I have tapped on its head in vain
And so I have seen the downfall
Of another one-eyed idol.

When little gods are outwitted
They seek the help of bigger gods,
Yet now Zeus will not deign to help
Even his favorite son.
It looks like a new, restructured Olympus
Has arrived.

I don't remember when I wrote this one

Studies in Sound
The brakes of the truck at a stop light
Whine like a dog with a wounded paw

That you may know the folly
Of pent up rage: Listen.
A wasp under glass.

The flutter of pigeon wings
Is the gentlest cry of terror
I have ever heard.

A little Robert Frost tribute

January 27, 2002 to February 26, 20002

I can’t see any stars tonight
Past all the clouds and city light
So I can’t wish upon a star
It makes a difference who you are

The street lamps say, “You’ve gone too far.
Why should you wish upon a star?
Should you not wish on what is near?
Things good for wishing are right here.”

So should I wish upon the cloud
That many bright stars does enshroud?
“Why no!” they shout, “That’s not allowed
Your wish must be on something proud.”

“You see the stars you talk about
Are ones that long ago burned out
So tell me do you have the right
To wish upon that long dead light?”

“The cloud is dumb and only wears
The light from anything that glares
You cannot wish upon a cloud
Your wish must be on something proud.”

I’m sure you’d say it isn’t sound
To wish on something on the ground.
If I were wishing what should I
Then wish upon that’s in the sky?

The street lamps say, “It’s good you ask
The orange light in which you bask
Is just the light for wishing on
And we shine well from dusk til dawn.”

”Don’t wish on dead light long delayed
Or on the clouds we have inveighed
To stay your mind on and be staid
Use light for which your taxes paid.”

Say what you will but realize
Your granting wishes is no prize
Your orange glow is still on loan
At least the star’s light is its own.

And don’t you stand upon the ground?
To wish on you would be unsound.
The wish you grant would not suffice
A wish my taxes paid for twice.

Mephistopheles by a copy machine

Mephistopheles by a Copy Machine
February 28, 2002

I wish I could photocopy your soul.
I admit it isn’t admirable
But you have a soul so worth copying.
To think I have found such a wondrous thing!
Rest assured I would give you your soul back
After I’m done copying it. In fact,
If it were possible, I’d improve it.
Two souls like yours would be even more fitting
And suppose, as some say, there is no soul?
Then there’s nothing wrong with my wish at all
Since a wrong is wrong only if it’s done.
Can there be two souls if there isn’t one?
Let me try the un-do-able for you
Let me have your soul so I can make two.

Not quite a sonnet in the strict sense but the mistakes were intentional, really. It helped underline the motiff. I was inspired to write this poem by listening to a woman sing a jazz tune. I don't remember precisely why the first line popped in my head but it seemed like a funny line for a love song. But it seemed funnier as a sales pitch from the devil and that's the theme I ran with.

this light little poem explains itself

This one is a language game, no more, no less.

Same Endings in Different Places

A little old man was pushing a plow
In his garden when a strong wind did blow.
He folded his arms and stifled a cough.
He whispered: “Why has the wind got so rough?
I can’t plow the ground in this kind of wind
Season’s almost done and I’m in a bind.
Soon there’ll be rain and should I make a trough
When the rain will make my garden a slough?”
He looked down and saw a wind-beaten moth
“Didn’t notice you, the wind hates us both.
It goes to blow one way and then it rescinds
It always rescinds as much as reminds.
Bah, wasn’t what Heraclitus said nice?
You never can walk through the same river twice.”

Two poems about perception

Filling a Water Bottle 6.20.2002

The once empty bottle is quickly filled
With water that must come from somewhere else
Maybe the drinking fountain in this building

(chiming in pipes like soft-ringing bells),
Maybe the water comes from my kitchen
And whispers from far off like ocean swells.

The old plastic bottle seems to fatten
But only what I see through water grows,
Only what’s seen, not the seen itself, when

The table distorts through what water shows.
Like splinters of sunshine found in the stream
Pouring out summer’s warm garden hose

These things remind me of how things can seem,
How meaning is not what it is to mean.

Playing with a ball-point pen.
Column of ink, enclosed in clear plastic,
Enclosed in another clear, plastic shell
The sight of you is clear but elastic,
Refracted. What layers of plastic tell
Is stasis and flux as my fingers turn.
The column of black widens and thins and,
In seeing this, there is something to learn,
Something almost easy to understand.

This might have been the start of a sonnet that I dropped because it seemed to get to its point in less time than that. The first poem is in terza rima, obviously. Chalk these up to my Wallace Stevens phase. :)

Don't read this if you like Pablo Neruda

He's got his moments but after reading about twenty of his poems I just got fed up with him and scribbled this.

After reading Pablo Neruda
Your name is like a pony,
A pony sold for far too much!
The silent hooves of your pony name
Run quickly on the fog of sadness
And the pony of your name is rustled
By a rain of tears!

How I would drive your pony name
Into the raging sea of tears
And drown it there as I escape
To drink a few more beers!

My token attempt at imitating Denise Levertov

Any fat robin will do
Any could feed him, hopping gracelessly in the grass
Any chickadee by the feeder would do
Provided he could catch two
Sparrows are no more than token food
For a hunter of his size and skill
As his desires drift like dandelion seeds on the windy day

We are a city of clouds that rarely promise rain
We lay under blankets but do not sleep
Until we do not expect sleep
It seems all our weather men are false prophets
Meteorologists, if you prefer.
And every ology has its limits
Even the darkest cloud will promise just so much.


Oil on water
What weighs on the heart
Rests lightly on what is clear
And, of course, you can see through it
What we need is so much simpler than what we want
Mixing oil and water
We stare at bubbles,
And the ghosts of our own desires
Phantoms of oil on water

And here's another poem I wrote the same day, much shorter. It's not quite really a poem, more an aphorism loaded with famous literary allusions.

we are trapped by our own metaphors
the rosy –fingered dawn
an ever blooming rose
a grand inquisitor
a guard at the door

Guess where this poem was inspired.

In a house of butterflies

It was so warm and damp I thought it should rain
But all the clouds were beyond the glass,
The sky covered with the hue of dark cream.
Here in the electrified tropic I stood
Surrounded by silent, flapping wings,
Facades of tree bark opened to blue or yellow
Glowing against the drab pebbled concrete at my feet.

Slow and silent,
It was only by faith I knew one landed on my hair
Like paper so thin the oil on my fingers would ruin it.
I waved my hand and felt only the zephyr I made
Until a tickle on my scalp revealed more
than my wave had made.
I turned and saw a butterfly by my knee.
Drifting through the air as a leaf floats on water

Perhaps it's cheesy and sentimental but I wanted to see if I could capture the delicacy of the moment. This is a bit unusual for me in the last few years in that this is free verse rather than structured poetry.

A poem from May 30, 2002

I wrote this after reading quite a bit of John Donne. I liked his use of medical metaphors and tried emulating that in a poem of my own.


Like the jelly between the retina
And optic nerve, you’ve been between me and
Reality. This is no dilemma.
You have my gratitude for understanding
The limits of my eyes. You’ve helped me
Live with them. Now for some it is a crutch
To rely on a person they can’t see.
It bothers me sometimes, but not too much
Because like vitreous, unseen between
The retina and optic nerve you hold
Two unlike likes in seam, unseen and seen,
Who I am, who you’ve been. Poets, I’m told,
Mediate the world through words, so do you
For you are the Word, and vitreous, too.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

blogging and Windows Vista

There's been more battles with Windows Vista on my computer than I anticipated and I just haven't gotten around to blogging like I planned. The stuff on the table to blog about is still on the table but the switch to daylight savings threw me for a loop and I saw 300 with some friends last night. It's okay, for a comic book movie about a historical event, but I sure don't remember so much sex or women in Frank Miller's comic book. The way Miller has been writing I hope he doesn't rewrite 300 to have all that junk in there. And since when did 300 get all Braveheart and have speeches about freedom. Miller recognized the irony of the least democratic Greeks fighting for democracy but the movie sure doesn't seem to grasp that particular point.

Nods to liberal critics who hate the movie for what it suggests about the current war in Iraq, yeah, I guess you guys can see connections when you want to see them but the comic book predates the election of Bush 2. Complaining about Frank Miller's story as not being great history is sort of like complaining about Peanuts not being a good representation of the ethical theories of John Stuart Mill. Since when have comic books based on history, in general, shown that much fidelity to fact. If there's a Red Baron movie out there that invents some romantic interest, some woman who supposedly opened Richtoffen's eyes to the brutality of war it's proof that film-makers and comic-book writers alike aren't that obsessed with historical accuracy There's nothing about Miller's puzzling handling of the deformed, the ugly, the weak, or the female that hasn't been fielded well enough by others.

As far as I can tell the track record Miller's work and Alan Moore's work has for being adapted to the silver screen is roughly equal, they're highly mixed at best. This is because the truth is, as I read them, both authors are pretty over-rated by comic book fans. Merely attaining the stature of literature isn't that big a deal to the literary world. For my money neither Moore nor Miller have ever attained a comic book that for literary scope and philosophical daring matches Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. Yeah, yeah, I know I'm being totally unfair. I'll grant that The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One are both great. And Watchman and The Killing Joke are both great even if too many Moore fanboys make the horrendous mistake of thinking there's anything to admire about Ozymandias. If you think anyone is the good guy in that story you're missing the point. But enough of the comic book rants.

I've finally listened to Carmina Burana and I like it. Usually I don't go out of my way to listen to secular choral music at all. Just a personal conviction of mine. If twenty to eighty people are going to be singing about something I would prefer they sing about Jesus, the Father, or the Spirit, or some passage from Scripture. Not that I actually dislike secular choral music at all but I've just heard some overwrought secular choral music that amounted to drippy love songs. I've got Lady Macbeth and Wozzeck so I can get into an opera or two. I just tend to personally feel that I don't want to WRITE secular choral music and because of my disposition as a composer I don't tend to listen to secular choral music much. But Carmina Burana is great music. I can see why it's so well represented in recordings. If you're the person who lent me this and you happen to read this blog at any point, thanks again.